“How are you?” A friendly, smiling face asks as I roll up to the Rapha Cycle Club, the starting point for our Festa Della Donna ride. We chat, compare notes, say where we’ve come from and explain why we’re here. The familiarity of her greeting makes me wonder if we’ve met before. An engaging conversation later, I realise I’m meeting a friend for the first time; one who’s travelled over an hour for the journey that lies ahead.
Festa Della Donna translates as International Women’s Day. And Rapha have their own brand of this, by organising a ride. I step back, lift my eyes to take in the scene as a whole. The coffee machine is pumping and caffeinated art fills many eager hands. Women crowd the downstairs space inside the store, spilling into the upstairs and out onto the footpath. In a few hours, we would finish back here in the way we started. Coffee, chatter, new friends, old friends, and a streaming supply of foods put together in ways that make us shut our eyes to take it all in.
Right now the energy of bodies ready for a ride is palpable; breaking the ice and setting a tone for the day. It’s Sydney in early Autumn, which is definitely summery. The dawn light is moving through its colours, luring us towards our bikes and the open road.
As we begin to roll out the socialising continues. I meet one lady who started riding again when she was 70 (I want to introduce her to every woman I know who’s humming and huffing about getting into the sport at the age of 40 or so). I meet women who live west in the Blue Mountains, south in Cronulla and Southerland, and a few streets away from my city home. We talk about journeys we’ve had on our bikes, share admiration for each other’s day jobs, and discuss what it means to be riding in such a big group of girls. Are there 50 of us? Maybe it’s 60? Everyone looks so comfortable and assured on their bikes, it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
The chatter continues as we twist and turn through backstreets, those secret streets people never discover when they take the dominant route from A to B. We miss the busier tarmac so effortlessly and take in parks, wide footpaths and boardwalks through greenery instead. I’ve lived in this city for 12 years now and am seeing it with brand new eyes. The thought of this new playground makes me feel so happy, as does the promise of more to come.
I look up from the sea of lycra and spinning tyres, and soak up the sky, the clouds and the ocean. The rest of the route links together iconic beaches, cliff scapes, and huge expanses of water and sky; Maroubra, Malabar, Little Bay, La Perouse, Yarra Bay, Coogee, Bronte, the well-known and the little-seen. These are the reasons I love to get up early and watch the sunrise from my saddle.
The first time I experienced these roads on a bike my jaw nearly hit the ground, I felt so transfixed. Today I see them through the eyes of others; riders new to the sport, riders new to this city, riders who love to cycle through these places often. Each time we pause and regroup, I find myself seeking out someone I haven’t met yet. I ride the short hills at a pace that allows me to listen to stories from others. The energy these girls have for cycling is contagious – their enthusiasm, their welcoming perspective, their sense of joy for this thing that we love to do.
Rides like this show how liveable Sydney is, why mornings are so special, why we like to call this magnificent landscape home. Coast, ocean, clouds, sunrise, pedalling, joy. I feel proud. Happy. Content. So glad of what riding a bike brings to my life. So uplifted to see what it’s bringing to others.
As we wind up the ride, enthusiasm for the Rapha Women’s 100 builds. On July 20, women all over the globe will group together to tick off another milestone. Women riders in their thousands. The diversity of experiences, landscapes and memories to come make this morning’s ride in Sydney part of something extraordinary indeed.
For more information on Women’s 100 Rides with Rapha, visit the Women’s 100 page »
The Rapha Cycle Club Sydney holds women’s rides every Friday. More information here »
Rapha also host women’s rides in Melbourne every Thursday AM:
- Time – Roll out at 6am sharp
- Location – Corner of Wellington and Peel Streets, Collingwood
- Pace – Social with no-drop policy but you will need a road bike